About GlacAPI

The Antarctic Peninsula has shown a pronounced warming in recent decades and perhaps constitutes as one of the fastest warming regions on Earth. As a consequence the glaciers in the region underwent rapid changes in the last couple of decades, most pronounced - and widely publicized in the media - the break-up of several large ice shelves that seemed to be linked to a series of exceptionally warm summers. The magnitude and abruptness of the events seem to confirm Mercer's 1978 prediction that they might be early indicators of the effects of CO2 induced global warming on Antarctica.

Compilation of satellite images showing changes in areal extend of the ice shelves in the study region along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula since 1986. The ice shelf collapse is moving progressively southward.

In the wake of the ice shelf disintegrations their former tributary glaciers started to retreat and accelerate with some showing an increase in flow speed of up to 5 times. These dynamical changes were initiated by a sudden reduction of resistive forces due to the ice shelf break-ups. The acceleration caused dynamic thinning and led to increased ice export contributing to global sea-level rise. The increased velocity on Drygalski Glacier - the largest tributary of the former Larsen A Ice Shelf - is still maintained more than a decade after the collapse. The glaciers draining into the former Larsen B Ice Shelf, which disintegrated in 2002, show a similar behaviour: years after the collapse the ice flow is still much faster and the perturbation, initiated at the ice front, propagates upstream. The collapse events followed by the rapid dynamic response of tributary glaciers have placed question marks on the stability of other ice shelves that fringe the continent and their tributary glaciers.

GlacAPI assesses recent temporal changes in the major glaciers formerly feeding the Larsen A, Larsen B and Prince Gustav Channel ice shelves and gives refined estimates of their contribution to global sea-level rise. A second objective is to contribute towards a better understanding of the dynamical processes that led up to the disintegrations and the subsequent acceleration of tributary glaciers. A thorough understanding of these processes is a prerequisite for assessing the future response of nearby regions buttressed by ice shelves to continued climate warming.